Canal Street Bistro's (3903 Canal St., 504-482-1225; www.canalstreetbistro.com) owners operate with the philosophy that simple is better. White tablecloths, high ceilings and marsala hues give the bistro an easy, homey ambience. Previously a private residence, law office and vegan-friendly eatery, the restaurant was revived four years ago by owner Monica Ramsey and serves brunch and dinner classics rooted in Mesoamerican flavors.
Executive chef and Mexico City native Guillermo Peters has led the kitchen for three years with his daughter, sous chef Ingrid Thomas, and son-in-law, sous chef Lowen Thomas. Peters and his team highlight his heritage by presenting dishes steeped in rich Latin-American flavors.
Respect for quality ingredients is key to producing dishes on the sizeable menu. Native Mexican ingredients (such as chilies, corn, chocolate, beans and tomatoes) are highlighted. The juice bar serves concoctions made to order from fresh produce.
"When I have a fresh, high-quality product, the one thing I don't want to do is cover that flavor," Peters says. "Simplicity is the idea.
"A palate-friendly dish doesn't have to have a lot of complexity," adds Peters, who lists fish topped with salt, pepper and olive oil as one of his favorite dishes. "When I came here, they had recipes that included maybe 10 or 15 ingredients. I said, 'You don't need all of this.' ... I don't like to cover up anything."
Peters' spin on brunch includes basics like steak and eggs and crepes. The chef tops grilled New York strip, potatoes and eggs with roasted poblano peppers and chimichurri. His duck crepe features duck confit paired with pumpkin seeds and queso fresco in a mole pipian sauce.
The lunch and dinner menus include vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. Roasted red pepper and carrot soup is served with creamy goat cheese for a light lunch. Esquites are a traditional Mexican small plate consisting of corn, red onions, fresh cilantro and jalapenos with a hint of lime juice and served with tostadas. A crisp "grasshopper" juice medley from the juice bar combines bright notes of grapefruit, cucumber, lime and orange.
Canal Street Bistro also offers cooking classes. Led by Peters and the Thomases, the lessons are for students of all levels and are held in customers' kitchens. The classes are popular choices for people celebrating a special occasion or girls' night out.
"We'll go to someone's house, and a lot of times it becomes a party," Peters says.